Still no justice for the Chols of Tila, Chiapas

x carolina

“We’ve come because we’re hungry. We’ve come for justice. We’ve come for our lands”, said a spokesperson for more than 200 Chols from Tila, Chiapas, who headed a march in Mexico City from the Monument to the Revolution to the Supreme Court of (in)Justice on Wednesday, August 1, 2012.

It had been a long, hard trip from the mountains in the North of Chiapas, and people were tired but hopeful that the highest court in the land would make a final decision to restore lands expropriated from them in 1980. They had won an affirmative decision in 2009, but local and state governments have refused to honor it. Now their case was on the docket again.

One comrade explained: “We’ve come to protect the lands where we were born, where we live, where we work. Mother Earth gives us food to eat and we take care of her. This territory, these lands, belong to us thanks to our ancestors and thanks to the struggle waged by Emiliano Zapata for land and freedom in the Mexican Revolution. We are talking about 5,405 hectares recognized as communal land by presidential decree in 1934. There was an earlier attempt against our lands in 1966 when the Agrarian Agency tried to take 130 hectares right in the center of the town of Tila. They said the town was not part of the communal property (ejido). After we got a protective order against this attempted land grab in 1977, they tried another tactic. And who do you think joined forces against us in 1980? The state government, municipal government, and Land Registry Office! They issued an expropriation order for the very same 130 hectares. It has taken us decades to get protective orders against these illegal and unconstitutional actions. We finally won a writ in the first case thanks to the EZLN uprising in 1994, and we won the second case in 2009. But the state and local governments don’t respect it. That’s why we’re marching to the Supreme Court today—to demand a final decision that is just. There are hundreds of us here, and thousands more are marching in Chiapas at this very moment for the same reason”.

The busloads of Chol indigenous people who belong to The Other Campaign in Tila, had arrived the day before in the Caravan for Land and Territory, along with friends in the Anti-Repression Network, Radio Pozol, Radio Zapatista, Frayba, the Peace Movement and the Peoples Front in Defense of the Land of San Salvador Atenco. Not having slept, they went to straight to the Miguel Agustín Pro Human Rights Center, where they held a press conference.

On Wednesday, the day of the march, they were welcomed at the Monument to the Revolution by the #YoSoy 132 Encampment, a contingent of electrical workers and several collectives of The Other Campaign and student groups. There, they held another brief press conference and a ceremony with the traditional Dance of the Quetzal, candles and copal incense before setting out on a militant, high-spirited march.

A comrade responded to these questions in an interview:

–– Why is the government so interested in these 130 hectares?

–– They want to privatize them because they can make a lot of money on tourism. The sanctuary of the Lord of Tila, known to many as the Black Christ, is there. For us it’s a sacred place, but for them it’s a spot for attracting more tourists, building more hotels, etc.

–– When do you expect the Supreme Court decision?

––It’s scheduled for August 2. We ask all of you to be there with us to find out what they say.

–– What is at stake?

––If we don’t win, they can forcibly remove the families still living on the expropriated territory. And their businesses not only take away our lands; they also take away the water that we need to survive. They want to sweep us off the streets. They have nothing but scorn for us. But of course they love to sell our traditions, our fiestas, our music. Everything is up for sale. Their entire project is an attempt on our way of life. It’s an attempt on the rights of the Zapatista peoples and all indigenous peoples. There’s a lot at stake.

After the march, the protest continued outside the Supreme Court. The next day, people were denied their constitutional right to demonstrate when police shunted them to a side street, where they stayed all day before finally being told that the Supreme Court would not have time to hear their case. Before they left, they danced the Dance of the Quetzal once again.

Two weeks later, still no word. Three decades later, still no justice.

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